PINELLAS PARK – Following legal issues with its landlord, Saddle Up Riding Club is looking for a new home.
The nonprofit, which offers equine therapy to disabled children, adults and veterans, as well as programs for able-bodied riders, has found itself without a permanent home just a month after starting a 90-day campaign to raise the funds needed to purchase the property it has rented for the past six years.
Saddle Up wound up in court with Park Ranch, LLC, the owner of the property it rented at 6080 94th Ave., after withholding rent for two months. Kellie Sipos, executive director of Saddle Up, said she and her husband laid out thousands of dollars to renovate a home on the property that was condemned by the city of Pinellas Park on Aug. 12 and was never reimbursed by the landlord. She said she only withheld the rent to force Keith Johnson of Park Ranch, LLC to meet with her.
At a Dec. 20 court date, which Sipos missed, a judge ordered that Saddle Up vacate the property. Sipos said she called the court and Johnson’s lawyer 24 hours in advance to let them know she wouldn’t be at the court and would voluntarily leave the property.
“I’m just tired of all this fighting,” Sipos said. “Life is short. It’s not worth all these battles. … Now I just want to focus on the positive.”
On Dec. 21, with the help of volunteers, Saddle Up relocated onto nearly 5 acres directly east of its former home that are owned by Nancy Sparks.
“The woman’s a saint. She’s an angel,” Sipos said. “She’s been phenomenal.”
The move onto Sparks’ land is just a temporary fix. Sipos is still raising funds to help buy land for Saddle Up’s future home.
A bid on property in Safety Harbor fell through, but Sipos said she is making an offer on 2 acres in Pinellas Park not far from where Saddle Up is located now.
She said she also plans to apply for a commercial loan, and has several investors for the project.
“We are fine and actually going to be better than ever,” Sipos said. “We just need the community’s support.”
Saddle Up will host a concession stand at a Sunday, Jan. 19 riding event at Helen Howarth Park, 6301 94th Ave. N. The event is open to riders of all abilities. The organization also will hold a used tack sale to help raise funds to feed and care for their horses during this transition period. Horse rides will be given to the general public from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 to 4 p.m. for $5 a ride.